The Meaning of Stickiness

In our last article we talked about what high renewal rates mean for your business, but how do you set your business up to achieve those renewal rates? As we said, it comes down to customer success with your product and stickiness in the face of market changes and competitive pressures.

Let’s talk about stickiness (a term everyone seems to talk about) – just what does it really mean? A quick definition is the nature of your customers to continue to use your products or services, to “stick” with you.

The traditional (and now outdated) approach to keeping your customers sticky was to sign them up to long-term contracts or be a black box in one of their main business processes. Such an attitude could not be further from the spirit of adding value and customer success.

As we look at the stickiness of businesses today, we focus on a few key areas that drive value and make a customer successful – which leads to them to renew, upgrade, and never leave.

What’s in a Renewal Rate?

One of the key value questions for any software or services business is the rate of customer renewal. Whether it is measured in dollars, customers, subscriptions, maintenance agreements, or some other metric, higher renewal rates usually indicate better products and stickier customers, and they directly translate to more predictable revenue and lower selling costs.

Typically, good services businesses have renewal rates of more than 80%, while more sticky software renewal rates hit 90% or more. But what is the difference between a company which has a 90% renewal rate vs. one with a 95% renewal rate? Both are clearly leaders among their peers, but, as just one example, the 95% renewal rate company can spend half what the other must spend on selling and still come out ahead.

In order to get to that conclusion, we need to look at renewals from the other angle – by considering attrition. While a 90% renewal rate is great, it means that attrition is 10%. So the company with a 95% renewal rate has only 5% attrition, meaning on average it loses half as many customers per year as its rival in this example.